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Empress 1908 Gin

Bottle of Empress 1908 Gin in original indigo, on top of a brown table and in front of a mixed white and wooden background

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Empress 1908 Gin


About Empress 1908 Gin

Empress 1908 Gin is a produced by Victoria Distillers in the coastal area of British Columbia, Canada. Founded in 2008, Victoria Distillers produces a variety of spirits including Gin, Vodka, Brandy, and more. Their products are handcrafted in small batches, and the distillery itself is designed with a focus on sustainability – transferring the excess heat from production into a geothermal system that helps power the hotel next door.

This particular bottle of Gin was created in collaboration with the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel in British Columbia, well-known for its afternoon high tea. One of the 8 natural botanicals included in Empress 1908 is the signature Fairmont Empress Tea, a fancy tea blend commonly served at the hotel. Other botanicals include butterfly pea blossom, juniper, grapefruit peel, coriander seed, cinnamon bark, rose petal, and ginger root. This gin is distilled using small batch copper-pot stills, and not aged.

Surprisingly, the unique indigo color of this gin is not artificial at all, but rather a result of the butterfly pea blossom. The chemistry of this ingredient is such that the gin will naturally change color when combined with certain mixers – making it a real crowd-pleaser.

Bottle Specs

❖  ABV: 42.5%

❖ Distillery: Victoria Distillers

❖ Aging: N/A

❖ Price Point: Upper-mid price range

Tasting Notes

Here are the tasting notes of Empress 1908 Gin, according to the official Victoria Distillers website:


❖ Earthy

❖ Citrus

❖ Delicate floral

❖ Warm spice

Round glass with indigo liquid, next to a bottle of Empress 1908 Gin, on a dark brown table and in front of a mixed white and wooden background

My Tasting notes

As I smelled this gin for the first time, the alcohol scent came out very strong – similar to rubbing alcohol. As I smelled it a second and third time, the aroma was a bit more mellow with a light, sweet citrus scent. As I continued to sniff, I could smell a subtle sense of leafiness – though it was difficult to identify the exact plant.

As I went to take my first taste, my throat could feel the alcohol coming before it even hit my tongue. The taste of this gin was quite biting and bitter. My second sip started off more mellow, with a floral note arriving that could have been the Butterfly Pea Blossom. However, it was only a second or two before the biting aftertaste kicked in. During my third sip, I could strongly taste the spice notes, with the cinnamon moving upwards and lingering in my nose. As I take my fourth sip, the citrus notes start to come out, and it tastes specifically like the peel portion of the grapefruit. Overall, it is clear that this gin is designed for cocktails and not for straight sipping. My initial straight tasting was not the best experience, as it was very bitter.


For my cocktail, I wanted to choose something classic that I could vary slightly to showcase Empress‘s show-stopping color change. I decided to opt for the Bramble, which happens to be one of my favorite gin drinks. Though the ingredients (minus the crème de mûre) are normally shaken, I switched up the ingredient order and poured everything straight in the glass one by one.

I call my end result the “Tie-Dye Bramble”. Hope you enjoy!

Yield: 1 drink

Tie-Dye Bramble

Tie-Dye Bramble

recipe by Emmeline Gonzalez-Beban


  • 2 oz Empress 1908 Gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Optional garnish: lemon wedge


  1. Pour crème de mûre & simple syrup into the bottom of the glass, and stir slightly.
  2. Fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice, leaving a little room at the top for more ice in a later step.
  3. Pour the Empress 1908 Gin over the ice.
  4. Add the lemon juice, pouring in an uneven pattern to create a slight tie-dye effect.
  5. Top with a little bit more crushed ice, and garnish.

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Inside of a Bramble, this Empress 1908 Gin was actually fairly well balanced. That said – the Bramble is considered a very sweet cocktail, so we have to consider the relativity happening here. It was clear that the crème de mûre was working overtime to cut the harshness and bitterness of the gin. Empress 1908 might not be for everyone when it comes to simpler cocktails like the Martini or Tom Collins. It is just not very smooth at all.

In regards to the flavor notes, it seemed like every sip of this drink was different. At first I thought it was just me having trouble focusing, but then I realized it was the gin itself that was continuously morphing to highlight different notes. In some sips, the citrus notes came out strong to balance the sugars. In other sips, the earthiness was most prominent. Each of the listed botanicals had their brief moment to be featured on my taste buds. It was certainly an interesting experience, though I personally prefer a smoother, more consistent flavor profile in my gin cocktails.

Bottom Line


At the end of the day, the main attraction of Empress 1908 is the ability to create neat party tricks with insanely gorgeous cocktails. The fact that this spirit can change color naturally without artificial dyes is a huge selling point. If I’m being honest, I would probably recommend this bottle to some friends solely based on the fun of experimenting with the color-changing properties in different mixers. It’s like happy hour and a science experiment all in one! I had a blast planning and executing my Tie-Dye Bramble.

However, if I was judging based on taste and quality alone, this gin really wouldn’t stand out. It is not smooth, and its flavor is average at best. For the price, you are really paying for the visual wow factor – and you have to know that going in!

All-in-all, my opinion on this Gin is decidedly split. If Empress 1908 didn’t have it’s color-changing properties, I would absolutely not recommend this bottle. That said – if you’re planning a party and have a few extra bucks to shell out, it’s worth picking this up to impress your guests with a little gimmick. Just make sure you add some extra sweetener to the cocktails when you do!

As always, drink responsibly.

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  1. Kari

    That’s so cool that the Empress Gin changes color when used with other mixers! Definitely a good prop for Halloween potion brewing! That’s cool that they used the tea from the Empress, I remember going to the hotel for tea when I was young, it’s such a beautiful building!

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